A Federal Appeals Court Tuesday ruled Washington must stop forcing dairy farmers to contribute to a special fund that pays for the famous "Got Milk?" ad campaign, reversing a district court decision issued last March.
Until now, the Department of Agriculture program required dairy farmers to contribute 15 cents per hundred weight of milk produced to pay for the $80 million-a-year TV and print campaign that features celebrities sporting white milk mustaches.
A couple running a family farm in Pennsylvania took the program to court, arguing that they should not have to contribute to advertising that treats milk as a generic product. The couple said they use organic methods and don’t inject their cows with bovine growth hormone as most dairies do. They had been required to contribute up to $4,000 annually to the campaign.
The federal appeals court in Philadelphia ruled that the government interest in generating demand for milk was not strong enough to warrant infringement on the farmers’ free speech rights.
"Promotional programs such as the Dairy Act seem to really be special interest legislation on behalf of the industry’s interest more so than the government’s," wrote Judge Ruggero Aldisert.
The decision is latest in a string of rulings against similar government programs. Federal courts have also nullified government programs requiring farmers to support the "Beef: It’s what’s for dinner" and "Pork–the other white meat" campaigns.
A call to the government’s Milk Processor Education Program was not returned.